I have spent a lot of time and space on discussing the lack of outside or cultural support for parents in America, but today I am focusing on inside the family. Earlier this year I discussed the need to, as parents, allow ourselves to see our friendships and relationships as vital and crucial to our children's development and give ourselves the time and permission to pursue them (you can read that article here). Today I am discussing the need for parents, especially mothers, to acknowledge our need to make sure to take care of ourselves first and foremost. It is the classic "in the event of a crash, please place your own oxygen mask over your own nose and mouth before assisting those around you." We need to place value on ourselves from time to time, even if it means dumping a screaming toddler who has been demanding to be held all day in their crib for 15 min for a mommy time-out.
Last year I was drowning in my own clutter and as a result, was drowning in the clutter in my mind. After three very rough pregnancies over six years I had roughly a total of 27 months of backlogged projects. My mental state was reflected in my house and/or vice versa. It was then that I discovered the marvelous and fantastic FlyLady (www.flylady.net). She introduced the idea that you can change the state of your house by committing to at least 15 min a day. When Starman got so terribly sick and spent 5 days in the hospital followed by 6 weeks home on oxygen I abandoned ship, so to speak, and switched back into the all too familiar- survival mode.
This Christmas I picked up where I left off last Spring. Three months in and the 15min concept has literally changed my life, not just the state of my house. Now I set the timer for EVERYTHING. Hate to play dolls with your daughter? Set the timer. Don't want to go through backlogged mail? Set the timer. Thinking that your head will explode if you have to sing one more rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus"? Ok kid, I will sing, but only until Mommy's timer goes off! After all, you can do anything for 15 minutes.
So, after it worked so well with the house, The Husband and I decided to commit to getting healthier with...you guessed it... 15 min a day. Once the kids are in bed we trade off on the Wii Fit or Just Dance games or weight lifting. While The Husband does his 15 min of exercise I *shine my sink* (a FlyLady staple). Then we switch and I do mine. We started 8 weeks ago and so far I have lost 6 lbs (sadly nothing compared to The Smug Husband's 15, but really, who's counting?). I feel great! I have more energy to chase after the kids and more energy to keep up with the house. Another 15 minute victory.
A friend suggested that if the 15 minute thing was working so well I should commit to writing 15 minutes each day on one of my many, many writing projects. Starting today I am committing in honor of her. She is a great friend and I value her input. It feels great to take these 15 minutes for myself.
So, I now try very hard every day to spend 15 min on:
-Playing with or reading to the kids, or on good days, both
-Exercising with The Husband
-Blessing my house (housework, decluttering, yard work)
-Shining my sink
-One load of laundry
So, in one and a half to two hours of my day I make a point to spend quality time with myself, my kids and my husband. It has changed my life, my perspective and my overall satisfaction with my life. The rest of the day? Well, you know how it goes. It's back to survival mode.
There are studies out there that say that parents are some of the least satisfied people in the world, although my favorite article which debates that conclusion can be found here, in the New York Magazine. I would say that it is largely because American culture demands that parents sacrifice sleep, personal time and self-care in the interest of spending every waking minute "developing" our offspring. We spend so much time and energy trying to increase their competitiveness that we sacrifice our own happiness and financial stability. I would argue that instead, we should realize that life should not be put on hold while our children are growing up. Instead, we should find a way to balance our own needs with theirs. We owe it to ourselves, but we also owe it to them. Put on your own oxygen mask and breathe deep. Then help those around you.
With that in mind, I stumbled across another fantastic website, The Orange Rhino. It is all about learning to, and committing to find ways to avoid yelling at your children. At first glance that might look like it something that we would do to benefit our children, which it does, but what it really does is boost your confidence in your parenting and provide a more peaceful household. Let's face it, these things really have more benefits for Mom. Two weeks ago I stopped yelling at my kids and have been putting a Care Bear sticker on my calendar for every day I manage to get through the day without pulling out the tornado siren yell. I have fourteen stickers and I have never been so proud of anything in my life.
Since most parents struggle with very similar problems; messy house, unruly kids, severe lack of me-time, I suggest trying to set your timer from time to time. You just may find that it helps, or at the very least, you know that there are only going to be four more minutes left to sing that f#$%ing "Wheels on the Bus" song and then you can tell your sweet daughter to sing it her[damn]self cause Mommy's timer says it is time to quit.